Saturday, February 19, 2011

You know you're from Roseburg when...

Now that I’ve been living in the ‘burg for a while, it’s kind of scary how used to it I’ve become. When we moved here back in 1997 the culture shock was so strong that I told my husband I would try it for a year but then we might need to move back to a big city.

Fourteen years later I love living here and don’t regret making the decision to stay, but I quickly forgot how strange this “new world” felt at first. In a lot of ways, it was not unlike moving to a different country altogether, I kid you not. It’s not that one world was better than the other, just very different, and I had a hard time acclimating.

For example, I had never heard people refer to anything with four wheels as a “rig” before I moved to Roseburg. The first time someone asked me if I was taking my rig up to the mountains I asked, “You mean my Camry?” Yep, apparently he did.

Those fish-out-of-water feelings all came back to me when I was talking to a co-worker recently. He and his family moved from the East Coast a few months ago, and he was telling me about attending his first fundraiser at his kids’ school.

“I kept noticing that there were all these people around a fenced in area watching a cow,” he said. “I asked my wife, ‘Hey, why are they all watching a cow?’ She just said, ‘Oh, it’s to raise money.’ Turned out there were numbers on the ground inside the pen, and they were waiting to see where the cow would poop to see if their number won.”

He paused a minute, then said, “At that moment I thought to myself where in the heck have we moved?”

All I could do was smile and say, “Welcome to Roseburg.”

When we first moved here, every transplanted person I met gave me the same advice: Give yourself two years and you’ll love it. So I gave him the same advice.

But those first two years are tough, and for me, I remember wondering if I’d ever feel at home.

So I decided to give my co-worker a list of things to check off. The idea is that when he and his family members answer “yes” to any of these statements, they are that much closer to becoming a full-fledged Roseburger, for better or for worse.
I wanted to complete the sentence “You know you’re from Roseburg when…” but I couldn’t do it alone. So I enlisted help from other transplanted Roseburgers (and a token native) and here’s what we came up with.

You know you’re from Roseburg when…
• Your kids think that the word “Umpqua” is a Native American term meaning “ice cream.”
• You refer to home as “the ‘burg.”
• You finally start to pronounce Oregon correctly.
• You’ve floated the river in the summer.
• You don’t even bat an eye when you find a wild turkey walking around your front yard.
• Your kids can’t wait to ride the escalators and elevators in Eugene or Portland.
• You’ve spent time climbing on the Stewart Park train.
• You’ve attended a concert at Music on the Half Shell.
• You’ve taken a tour of the Umpqua Valley wineries.
• You think that one inch of snow should result in schools being closed.
• You find yourself wearing sandals with socks and you’re okay with it.
• You purchase an item with camo print.
• It doesn’t surprise you anymore when you see a real cowboy on horseback working a ranch.
• You’ve use the term “git ‘er done” without irony.
• You say “Melrose place” in reference to a favorite hunting spot, not a TV show.
• You realize that Crater Lake is a little slice of heaven on earth.

Eileen Burmeister has settled in Roseburg where she lives, works and gives advice to co-workers whether they want it or not. She can be reached at

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Is it time to de-board the music train?

I’m not handling the aging process very well. I fight it constantly, trying to stay relevant in an ever-changing world. I fancy myself a hip mom who “gets” the humor, music and movies that our kids like, but the older I get, the more my plan of eternal hipness is unraveling. And to be honest, I’m not sure I have the energy to fight it anymore.

Take the Top Ten Albums of the Year. When the list came out at the New Year my husband said, “Do you recognize any of these artists or groups?” I looked over the list and had never heard of any of them. “Neither do I,” my husband said sadly. Keep in mind, this is the same man who followed U2 on a set of concert dates around Ohio and Michigan in the late ‘80s, got his 55-year-old Dad to listen to an entire Rush album with him in high school, and spent the night outside in a lawn chair so he could be first in line for Huey Lewis and the News tickets (not one of his prouder moments).

And me? I sang in a garage band until I had to quit because our jam sessions conflicted with volleyball practice (I had my priorities). I knew the lyrics for every song ever written by The Bangles, I got my hair cut just like Pat Benetar, and I had my very own “Born in the U.S.A.” t-shirt from the Boss’s stadium tour in 1985. Oh, I was cool all right.

So here we were, two previously hip and relevant parents, who didn’t know a single Top Ten act in 2010 and we … wait for it … couldn’t care less.

“Ah, well,” I said, handing the list back to Craig. “I’m going upstairs to take a nap.”

This whole interaction reminded me of one of my favorite Jeff Foxworthy sketches where he’s telling how his parents can still embarrass him. He explains, “Especially the way they dress. See, 'cause I have a theory. I think your parents are riding along on the fashion train, and one day they go ‘That's it, I ain't going any farther.’ True story: last year, I'm in the grocery store with my dad. He is wearing a pair of platform-heeled Dingo boots, wide flair-legged Levis that only miss the floor by ten or twelve inches, and an "Over 40 and feeling foxy" t-shirt. I'm like, ‘Dad, people are staring at you.’ And he goes, ‘Well, son, there's something about a Dingo man.’”

What I’m saying is, when it comes to music, I’ve become Jeff Foxworthy’s father.

I’m the one who’s now asking, “How can you understand what that guy’s saying when he’s singing?” Or I ask my son, “Why does he have to sound so angry all the time when he’s screaming those lyrics?” Or I scratch my head and say, “Can’t she just wear normal clothes instead of trying to dress like an extra-terrestrial on stage?”

And then I remember how confused my parents were when I had my boom box cranked up so high the paint was chipping off the walls, playing Bruce Springsteen (“How can you understand a word he says?)”, Adam Ant (“Why is he screaming and wearing girl’s makeup?”) and Madonna (“You call those clothes?”)

The apple doesn’t fall far from the musical tree. I’m just sayin…

Maybe we’re not entirely off the charts musically. In fact, my husband and our 15-year-old son are headed to Seattle this June to see U2 in concert. So we’re not hopeless, just tired.

I could fight this, I know I could. I could buy a Lady Gaga CD (or download it, however you do THAT), and listen to the lyrics and discuss them with the kids, but I simply don’t have it in me. These days, I’d take a nap over a Lady Gaga CD any time, and I’m hunky dory with that (kids, see your parents/grandparents for the definition, or you can use The Google).

I’ve spent my time on the Music Train and I ain’t going any farther. That train is now off the rails.

Eileen Burmeister lives, works and plays her Bangles cassettes at extraordinarily high volumes around Roseburg, Ore. She can be reached at

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